Our Travel blog
I’m given to understand that there may be one or two new readers of our blog. Thank you for taking the time out of your day to read about our adventures, it means a lot to us. Just a word of warning before we plough on though, I don’t hold this blog to be a work of historic importance; it isn’t a reference book to be whipped out in court to settle disputes or to be put on a university reading list. I hope that among the digressions and split infinitives there is a little pizzazz; a soupçon of the entertaining as well as the informative. I mention this because in the interests of background knowledge for my job I’ve been trying to read A.F. Murson’s book ‘King Robert the Bruce’. My goodness it is a turgid read. First published in 1899 my edition was issued recently as one of a series of Scottish histories. Of course A.F. championed accuracy, cross referencing of sources and diligent research whereas I tend to favour frivolity, believing the first thing I read and churning out an interesting diversion and nothing more. All of which is by way of warning you not to take the information I present as gospel. Think of the blog as somewhere in between 'a man in a pub told me' and Wikipedia. With that proviso out of the way let us get on with the blog. It’s a relatively light entry this time, not because we haven’t been busy but to save you, dear reader, from one too many descriptions of pleasant walks, work or our domestic life.
The Scots Gaelic for tyre is taidheir. I know this because our car was sporting a dinky little space saving tyre (dinky mòran rùm sàbhaladh taidheir) after a persistent steering wobble revealed that a tyre was about to wear through on the inside. The rest of it looked good with plenty of tread but the local garage diagnosed the problem, saving us from a loud rubbery halt mid journey. At first I thought that the mechanic had mixed our Mazda up with a wheel barrow but apparently the space saving tyre was safe and legal so off we scooted at a pace unlikely to trouble the speedometer. The mechanic found a replacement and had it shipped over in a few days. I’m guessing from the cost it had its own private cabin on the ferry from Oban and made ample use of the mini bar, but at least we feel more confident now that we’re driving on four matching wheels.
There is a resurgence of Gaelic speaking in Scotland, no more so than in the Hebrides where an estimated 52% of the population speak some Scots Gaelic. There’s a Gaelic TV channel, a Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005, announcements on the ferries are in both English and Gaelic and road signs are increasingly bi-lingual. Road signs in particular are a handy barometer; when local authorities invest in the infrastructure you know something more than a passing fad is happening. Scots Gaelic, a Celtic language brought over from Ireland in the 5 and 6th centuries, has since developed into a separate language of its own. Its influence doesn’t stop at Scotland’s border though, for example the words whisky, brogue and trousers are all from Scots Gaelic. And where would we be without trousers?
Well, Scotland probably as they often favoured the Plaid, a basic blanket of about 18ft or 3mtrs in length, usually in a local tartan pattern. ('Pladjer' is Gaelic for blanket). This was wrapped around the waist and over the shoulder. From this emerged the kilt, a more recent invention that is essentially a pleated skirt sometimes worn with an ornamental sash representing the over the shoulder element of the Plaid. According to some sources the flashes that wearers of kilts use to hold their socks up are a hangover from the cords that were once tied below the knee to keep one’s skin tight leg coverings, or triubhas, in place. Truis or trews are the Anglicised spellings, hence we arrive at trousers. Contrary to popular myth Highlanders probably wore both a plaid and trews, especially in inclement weather, of which Scotland is abundantly blessed.
 According to an online translation.
 Sources vary on its origin; some say it was from the Roman pleated skirt, that it came from Ireland or that there is in fact scant evidence of its widespread use before the 16th century.
One of the things I like about Gaelic is its ability to make the mundane sound mysterious and romantic. For example the highest peak on Mull is Ben More, which comes from the Gaelic A' Bheinn Mhòr, or big hill. On a recent day off we took a walk to an abandoned settlement called Gualachaolish. My attempts at pronouncing it required Alison to shield herself with a sturdy umbrella so we settled on calling it ‘The ruins’. Its Gaelic meaning is ‘hill shoulder at the strait’ which is far more manageable.
The route took us a short drive out of Lochdon then a long walk up a track that is slowly losing its battle with nature, across open grassland and up and around hills. It was in regular use until the 1930’s when the last crofter living at Gualachaolish left. Our guidebook warned us the way was boggy and indeed the path regularly sank into fetid pools or became a stream bed. Even as we gained higher ground we were forced to seek alternative routes to avoid bubbling springs and muddy puddles. After a half hour ascent we reached a gate and the end of the two wheeled track. From here on it was footpath only and the way became more interesting, with bracken and fern fighting with wild foxgloves for supremacy, lonely trees bent with the wind and strips of dark shrubs tracing the route of dark peaty burns running off the hills. As we climbed the view behind us opened up to reveal the plain of the river Allt a’ Ghleannain that feeds into Lochdon and the Duart peninsula with the castle silhouetted against the light blue of the sea, beyond which lay the hills of Morvern on the mainland. Heading onwards we traced Loch Spelve as it narrowed towards its entrance sandwiched between the hills we were on and those overlooking Croggan, the settlement that sits on the opposite bank where we walked back in May. (Croggan)
As we rounded the edge of the highest point on the peninsular, Carn Ban, we started dropping into a lush valley with a burn running through the remains of a stone animal enclosure. As we walked on more and more stone ruins became apparent amongst the bracken and grass and the hills were criss-crossed by gently tumbling stone walls. From the map this appears to be Killean, although whether that’s the name of the settlement or just the nearby ruins of a secluded church I couldn’t say. The church was once an important stop on the pilgrimage route to Iona when pilgrims alighted at nearby Grasspoint and made their way West through Mull.
Fording the burn we made our way on to the croft at Gualachaolish. In the mid-18th Century, the house was lived in by a Mr W. Middleton, Factor to Colonel Campbell of Possil, who once owned all this land up to and including what is now Duart Castle. The position is magnificent, overlooking Croggan, Loch Spelve and the sun drenched waters of the Firth of Lorne with mainland Scotland beyond. It’s doubtful that the Factor would have had much time to enjoy the views but I like to think he’d have been joined by his family at the end of a long summers day, all sitting on the wall looking out over the sea and sharing a moment of stillness in the warm summer air as we did now.
Mr. Middleton appears to have been a well read and erudite gentleman if his testimony to the Poor Law Enquiry of Scotland in 1844 is anything to go by. (Yes, I did some real research.) It’s worth noting though that his witness statement was in a ‘Memorandum of Conversation’ and there is no way to evaluate the accuracy of his testimony, nor to assume that his willingness to advocate emigration as the only recourse for poor crofters in his charge was his own opinion. While it might have been true, as I noted in a previous entry, sheep were much more profitable than people to a landowner and emigration was sometimes engineered so that it was the only realistic option left. When Middleton states that some of the crofters were behind with their rent one has to remember that some Factors, acting on the landowners’ orders, set unreasonably high rents deliberately to drive crofters out. He does talk about the help they were given to emigrate and his testimony suggests that Colonel Campbell of Possil was more benevolent than many.
Whatever his opinions the remains of his croft sit in a stunning location and enjoy an air of peace and solitude. There were signs that people visit the area, paths trodden down and suchlike but we saw no one and credit to the occasional visitors there was no rubbish or other outward signs of their presence. We climbed up the hill behind the croft and looked down on the small overgrown graveyard at Killean but elected not to venture down. Instead we started back, around the ruins, back across the burn and up around Carn Ban. Far below the occasional car shimmered in the afternoon heat along the tiny road towards the ferry at Craignure and a small sailing boat drifted into Loch Spelve and navigated around the floats of the fish farms that bobbed on the clear waters. We walked gradually downhill to the plain and back to the car reflecting on the lives of the crofters here in times gone by, when subsistence was hand to mouth and generations of loyalty brought scant reward beyond the opportunity to sail from your ancestral home to foreign soil, never again to tread these hills, to listen to the burn tumble over the stones, to smell the heather and bracken and never to look out over the loch and sea to familiar mountains.
 Often translated as Great Mountain – but the locals had more important things on their minds, like where the next meal was coming from, than spending time surveying geographical features and then organising them by height so hill and mountain were much the same thing, and it follows that big and great in the context of size were the same. (Sgoinneil is ‘great’ as in ‘have a great day’).
 It was as a result of the 1844 enquiry that the Poor Law (Scotland) Act 1845 was created and with it the ability to raise local taxes to cover poor relief costs by a central Board of Supervision. Previously the ‘able-bodied poor’ had no automatic right to assistance in Scotland as they did in England.
I’m writing this on my way back from another London trip. I wasn’t planning to regale you with more tales of misadventure but of the three return trips I’ve made between Mull and London this one was the hardest. A 40 minute delay on the only spot on the Oban line with no view, an unscheduled change of trains, a scamper through Glasgow to make my connection and crowded and noisy passage between Glasgow and London. Thankfully the hotel was fine and the meeting mostly went well, although there was a moment when discussing potential bias in multimodal community intervention studies I accidentally started showing a Scooby Doo DVD on my computer. An evening meet up with my sons went well too and after food and drink we went our separate ways; South London, Brighton and for me the sleeper train to Glasgow.
It started badly with a drunken passenger swearing at the man opposite him for changing seats. To his enormous credit the other chap just huffed off to a new place while the drunk muttered away darkly to himself. He had one eye swollen closed, sun reddened skin stretched taut over a gaunt frame and his whole demeanour said fight or flight, and the latter didn’t seem like an option he’d ever seriously considered. I put my ear plugs in, pulled my sleeping mask on, grabbed the Kindle, sat in puzzled darkness for a few seconds, raised the mask again and set to minding my own business absorbed in my book. I eventually fell into a fitful sleep, to be woken at 2:30am by Mr Drunk chatting on the phone. After the earlier altercation no one dared to challenge him.
To crown my day, the ferry departure lounge had been colonised by the England Formation Shuffling and Shouting Team (senior division). They queued quite unnecessarily for 45 minutes despite ample seating being provided, the whole time carrying on conversations that would drown out a jet fighter taking off. They all appeared to have been sponsored by Edinburgh Woollen Mill, with the exception of one ruddy chap who sported a Red Sox baseball cap, Craighopper walking trousers, Adidas shirt and Niké colostomy bag. Of course once we were called to board everyone had to queue again as the narrow gangway was mysteriously blocked by loud septuagenarians in pastel leisurewear desperately trying to shuffle in front of each other. Maybe it was the lack of sleep or the fact I’d just been asked to work the afternoon but I seriously considered hijacking the ferry and setting course for Switzerland. I was wondering if I could get a good group rate at Digitas until I remembered that Switzerland is completely landlocked, and anyway I’d be trapped on the ferry with them for far too long. They took to circling the ferry in little flocks pointing out the obvious to each other “ooh look, there’s the town…” “See that Jimmy? That’s the fish farm…no wait no it isn’t, it’s a lighthouse…” “Do you remember when we were here last Doris?” “No…” “Nor do I….” And so on until I dug out my ear plugs and rammed them home. I watched in blissful silence as one of them peeled away from their display of close-formation wandering to report some lost property; I suspect it might have been marbles.
I’m turning into a little grumpypants here so let me leave you with something more positive. When the sleeper train was drawing into Glasgow Mr. Was-Drunk gently woke a stranger sleeping across the aisle from him, helped a couple with their luggage, tidied up his mess, collected more from dozy passengers as he made his way to the bin and was charm itself. My last sight of him was as he helped an elderly lady down from the train. With the sound of him bidding her a good day I headed into a rain lashed Glasgow.
 “Yer seem p…d off pal…tough f…ing luck I’m trying to get oot of this f…ing country and I’m f…ing sitting here so wind yer f…ing neck in yer c…”
Gosh, so much to write about…first though apropos of absolutely nothing at all, today I learnt that Sagfart is Gaelic for a scolding woman. Now you know that, let’s get on with the rest of the blog. In our last entry I casually let slip that parking in passing spaces on Mull’s single track roads is a faux-pas. What I didn’t mention was the correct etiquette when navigating the island by way of its narrow roads. With the exception of a short lively section of two lane road between the ferry at Craignure and the settlement of Salen it is all single lane, often with grass growing along the middle. We’ve decided that Island drivers can be divided into one of five categories:
Two local drivers approaching one another will judge the passing space to perfection, requiring the person with the space to swerve lightly around the oncoming vehicle which may, in extreme circumstances require one or both parties to momentarily reduce speed to fewer than 3 digits. Both parties will exchange a comradely slight nod of the head.
Commercial vehicles and buses:
Even locals find it best to tuck in and wait for the breeze and swaying to subside before venturing on. The driver will give you a halfhearted thanks by raising his hand while staring straight ahead. We’ve yet to witness two buses approach each other, I imagine it’s like two knights in full armour jousting.
They think of themselves as locals because they visit once a year in the family Mondeo to see an eagle and chat to that nice man in the ferry office. Many of them drive about as if they own the place, randomly pull into passing spaces to look for otters and are impossible to predict. One moment they pull over in good time, the next they are distracted by a waterfall and merrily plough on forcing you to screech to a halt and reverse round a corner and half way up a mountain. When they pass they’ll give you a cheery wave that resonates with smug do-goodiness and too much Daily Mail.
You can always tell someone new to island driving. They’re the ones sitting in passing spaces weeping. They spend their first day hopping from space to space, sometimes sending their children on ahead to scout out the road. They pull over as soon as they see another vehicle, even if it’s on a different island. Occasionally they pull over into spaces on the opposite side of the road rather than risk the oncoming car not doing so. When you pass they sit like a nervous puppy waiting to find out if they’ve been a good boy or a naughty doggie. When you raise a hand in thanks they beam with pathetic gratitude.
These are people of indeterminate pedigree but are generally characterised as ‘late for the ferry’. They just keep driving at you, irrespective of where the passing spaces are. They seem oblivious, stupid or too arrogant to realise the system works perfectly well if all parties play by the same rules. We’ve been forced into narrow roadside gullies, soggy verges and hedges by them rushing towards us like they are on the M25. They studiously avoid eye contact and the only acknowledgement they get from us involves one or maybe two fingers.
And finally…Audi drivers:
Anyone familiar with our blog last year will know how loathsome we found the behaviour of many Audi drivers. Well, we’re here to testify that on Mull they have been universally courteous and polite. There, you didn’t expect that did you?
The history of the Clan Maclean is complicated and the subject of much research by others and I’ve mentioned some of their background as it relates to Duart Castle in our last entry. Suffice to say that Macleans/MacLaines and several variants thereof are now scattered around the world. In 1912 they held a reunion to celebrate the restoration of the clan seat at Duart Castle into a family home by Sir Fitzroy, the 26th Chief of the Clan.
Nowadays it’s all rather quaint and pleasantly old fashioned, like a vintage car kept on the road by hard work, love and huge sums of money. The 28th Chief still resides at Duart but his role is mostly ceremonial and his Clan powers restricted to cajoling Macleans who have disposable income to dispose as much of it as they can in the direction of the castle. Maintaining it is not cheap, the repointing and roof repairs alone are costing over £1.2M, of which less than half is supported by grants.
The Clan has an association to help keep in touch with each other and raise funds. Various associations meet around the world but every 5 years they descend upon Duart for an international gathering. Happily for us the latest one coincided with our stay so for one giddy week we were rushed off of our feet meeting Macleans from every continent, with the possible exception of Antarctica. Saturday 24th June was the main event at Duart, when they all paraded up to the castle, accompanied by pipes and drums and plenty of flags flapping in the wind. Alison got to witness the parade and speeches which she reported as very moving. When they weren’t marching up and down they generally cavorted about the place enjoying the distractions, including traditional storytelling, a Gaelic choir, re-enactors camped on site living as C17th soldiers, and buying as much Maclean tartan as possible. That’s where Alison and I fitted in as part of a four person team in the tiny shop. The only breathing space was during the parade, the rest of the day the queue was out of the shop and the amount of money we took was astounding.
Everyone was cheerful, polite and calm despite the inclement weather, crowds and queues. At the end of the day the tearoom and shop crews collapsed in a heap around some cheese and crackers which we were too exhausted to enjoy. Tiredness not withstanding we witnessed a special day, met people from around the world and enjoyed ourselves immensely.
 Except for the toilets that is, where they wisely resorted to C21st facilities.
When our days off finally came around we decided to recover a little from the gathering on the tranquil island of Iona. Sitting off the west coast of Mull Iona is a 10 minute ferry trip away. It’s surprising to find an island only three miles long by 1 mile wide so busy, with streets, shops, a pub and post office. But then there has been a settlement on Iona for centuries owing to its place as the root of Christianity in Scotland and quite probably (sources vary) into England and throughout mainland Europe.
It all started in 563AD when an Irish monk called Columba (later to become St. Columba) left home under a bit of a cloud. After upsetting the owner of a gospel he’d copied in his native Ireland he then went against King Diarmait mac Cerbaill’s ruling against him and refused to hand the duplicate over. It all sounds a bit like playground pettiness but somehow this squabble descended into a bloody mess that became known as ‘The Battle of the Book’ and claimed 3000 casualties. St. Columba scarpered, supposedly full of remorse and chose Iona as it was the first place he set foot on where he couldn’t see his native Ireland. He established a monastic community and set about converting most of pagan Scotland and northern England to the Christian faith. Iona abbey became a missionary centre and place of learning known throughout the world and turned this dot of sand and rock into a place of pilgrimage.
St Columba is the focus of much adulation and pilgrims still visit to venerate him and soak up the atmosphere. However he wasn’t without strange ideas. For example he banished women and cows from the island, claiming that “where there is a cow there is a woman, and where there is a woman there is mischief”. Apparently he also buried his friend Oran alive in the foundations of the Abbey, although accounts suggest Oran volunteered for the job. Now that’s friendship. The Abbey became a centre of learning and was particularly known for the illuminated manuscripts they produced. This was where ‘The book of Kells’ was produced in around 800 AD, perhaps the finest medieval illuminated manuscript ever produced. It’s something of a miracle that it survived; many manuscripts were destroyed in successive Viking raids. Despite murders and looting the raiders failed to destroy the spirit of the island and the Christian community continued. Kings and Saints are buried on the island, as is John Smith the late Labour Party leader, whose simple headstone we didn’t find.
Iona is also home to the original Celtic Cross. The arms fell off of the first stone cross so some bright spark added the iconic circle around the intersection of the horizontal and vertical beams as a device for supporting the arms. It’s also the site of The Maclean Cross, a stubby-armed stone edifice decorated with a Celtic motif on one side and the crucifixion on the other.
Iona is known, by those who believe such things, as a ‘thin place’. By which they mean a place where the earthly world and spirit world is close and some of the mysterious and spiritual seeps through. I think it could actually mean porous if the amount of rain we encountered is anything to go by. I was just about to clamber up a small hillock where it’s said St. Columba had his writing shed (presumably a good vantage point to look out for any pesky women and cows trying to sneak in too) when a clap of thunder persuaded me that a cynic standing out in the open on high ground in a holy site in a storm was bound to attract lightening. “Ooh, we never have storms on Iona” said a passer-by, contrary to the evidence before her. I nodded and squelched off to seek refuge in the Abbey.
The original Abbey is long gone, replaced in 1203 by a nunnery for the splendidly titled Order of the Black Nuns. After the reformation the abbey lay in ruins until 1899 when its restoration started. Today it’s a simple building of stone and damp, there are even ferns growing high up on the inside walls. But its simplicity is also its charm; a large but somehow gentle nave, hushed cloisters and a tiny chapel on the site where it’s believed St. Columba is buried. I confess to a perverse pleasure in knowing that around 50% of the visitors paying their respects are women; I hope the odd bovine pops by too to say hi and no hard feelings about the banishment.
The occupants of the Abbey nowadays are a Christian community who believe in action as much as prayer and reflection. Consequently there was information about the plight of refugees, Palestinians and people with HIV and support for the LGBT community. We had a peek into the gift shop, tiny museum and then scurried through the rain to catch the evening Eucharist service at the nearby Bishops House, a Christian retreat house that isn’t affiliated to the Abbey. It was a short good humoured service which we followed by a discrete nose around and wander back to catch the last ferry home. On-board we agreed that we’d barely touched the surface of Iona and vowed to return when we had more time and Iona had less rain.
An Tobar & Yola Carter
The principle town on Mull, Tobermory, benefits from the rather wonderful An Tobar arts centre. Based in a former primary school it hosts exhibitions, a vegetarian café with stunning views over Tobermory Bay, recording studio and performance area. We were lucky enough to snag a couple of tickets to see Yola Carter perform there. The price included a two course meal, drink and of course entrance to the gig.
The food was excellent, a mild spinach and lentil curry with all the trimmings followed by a toffee apple pudding with cream. At the crack of 23½ minutes past 8 we all trooped through to the auditorium in a cloud of garlicy breath and suspiciously lentil infused wind. Bristolian Yola has performed with such notables as Massive Attack, James Brown and fronted her own highly acclaimed band Phantom Limb. Her solo work brings Stax, Soul, country and gospel influences to roots Americana.
A singer songwriter of rare power and presence, together with two guitarists she immediately commanded the stage with a voice that’s warm and powerful. Her voice soared over the audience, particularly in the songs that built to a crescendo when she let rip with a passion. She’s a born entertainer too – her routine about her vocal chord exercises had us all laughing. Here is a link to her singing in her kitchen: It Ain't Easier - Yola Carter
The following week we ignored all our experience and took ourselves on a walk of nearly 12 miles over rough terrain, in hot weather and for which we were ill prepared. Still, it was worth it even if the final destination was a bit of an anti-climax.
Carsaig is little more than the remnants of a large estate, once owned by The Macleans of Pennycross. It sits in a pleasant cove with a small stone pier and little else. The journey there was spectacular, through a wooded area then down the side of a steep sided valley and into the small car park. We were cheered to pass a lonely red telephone box half way down the descent. Goodness knows if these are still used but every settlement of any significance, by which I mean over four houses, seems to have one.
Anyhow buoyed up by the drive and the sunshine we set off along the beach and into the odd terrain that sits beneath the cliffs and above the beach, a narrow strip of vegetation and boulders. The walk wound along goat tracks (literally, the area is famous for its feral goats), under cliffs crowned with basalt columns of the type that caused Felix Mendelssohn to compose the overture The Hebrides or as it is more popularly known Fingal's Cave, after visiting the eponymous cave surrounded by such columns on the island of Staffa. The track was steep in places, we had to divert over landslips and across the beach at times, and we paused for lunch on a shingle spit in sight of a tumbling waterfall, one of several en-route. For 2 hours we saw no one until we neared our destination and two couples passed us on their return journey.
We finally scrambled up around ‘Malcom’s Point’, site of the bleakest and most remote ruined cottage I’ve ever seen and up to the point from which the first arch is visible. A sea arch, as I’m sure you are aware, is essentially a hole in the cliff caused by wave action. The one at Durdle Dor in Dorset is magnificent. This one was magnificently underwhelming. Maybe it was the long trek, and the fact that experienced walkers though we are we are also human and therefore prone to what one may charitably call stupidity. We were under supplied with water and let ourselves be deceived into thinking the sun wasn’t strong because of the breeze. We sat and pondered the return journey, ate some peanuts until I helpfully dropped them and then set out for home.
It was a long, trying trudge back. Occasionally a seal would bob up a few yards out to sea and we passed many goats munching seaweed on the beach to distract us and of course the scenery was every bit as glorious as it had been when we set out in the morning, but by now we weren’t in the mood to appreciate it. The final part of the walk along the beach and up a short path was a relief but the greatest joy was to discover our stash of chocolate ginger biscuits hadn’t melted in the car. We sat in crumbly silence savouring every bite before finally rousing ourselves for the drive home, which was enlivened by sight of an impressively antlered Stag crossing the road ahead of us.
 Insert your own interpretation of the spirit world here.
Mull benefits from a monthly listings newsletter called Round and About. It’s a cheerfully amateur affair packed with information from small ads, what’s on listings, local news and reports from various local organisations including the local council and WI. It was how we found out about Yola Carter playing on the island. They publish letters to the editor too and one in this month’s edition caught my eye. A chappie by the name of Adrian Bury from North Yorkshire wrote in to complain about insensitive developments and intrusive signs spoiling the island, which on the face of it may not sound unreasonable but then Mr Bury rather undermines his argument by the examples he chooses to illustrate his dispatch to the editor with.
For a start he objects to the signs warning that otters may be crossing the road. I quote “The Otter is my favourite mammal but, as with all of Britain, you get road kill.” Firstly, it had never occurred to me to have a favourite mammal, although thinking about it I suppose I do rate humans somewhat higher than, say antelopes or Nigel Farage. Secondly if it is your favourite Mr Bury why then would you object to a discreet warning sign? They are just standard red bordered triangles with a silhouette of your favourite mammal on after all.
Then Moy castle comes in for his ire for allowing banners promoting the Heritage Lottery Fund. If the option is to receive valuable funding to save an historic monument at the cost of a little advertising or to let the castle fall down then personally I’d choose the banner. I’ve been to Moy Castle twice and didn’t object to the signs. I do object to the Mr. Bury’s of this world expecting the planet to be as he wants it irrespective of real life considerations and compromises though.
Now he is into his stride he starts on self-catering lodges near Dervaig and a brand new restaurant building. Frankly a few log cabins are hardly offensive in the grand scheme of things and the new building may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it is well designed, provides jobs and brings in money to the community. Mull relies on tourism, there is only so much forestry, fish farming and sheep the island can sustain, and the otter community just won’t pay their fair share of taxes, probably because they keep getting squished by their fans! Mull is a working community, with all the detritus that may entail. If Mr Bury wants a pristine holiday destination without having to encounter real life then I suggest Disneyland is a better option for him; Disneyland on Jupiter for preference.
Our Adrian finishes with what I suspect he thought was a clever flourish “ As I’ve said, the powers that be no doubt mean well, but I think they should look up the meaning of the word ‘aesthetics’ as soon as possible and put it into practice?” (the question mark was all his work). He neglects to instruct them on whether he means the noun or adjective but be that as it may I assume he means ‘Concerned with beauty or the appreciation of beauty.’ as the online Oxford Dictionary defines it. Like the beauty to be found in the rays of the early morning sun reflecting on an otters guts smeared across the road or the appreciation of the empty homes and boarded up shops as people leave to find employment on the mainland. Or maybe the appreciation of an Island that isn’t some Disneyfied plastic facsimile but a real living, breathing community that has jobs, welcomes tourists, protects its wildlife and could benefit from the addition of a sign or two warning of narrow minded idiots from North Yorkshire.
Even Duart Castle has scaffolding up for the aforementioned repairs and most visitors appreciate the need and comment that it is good to see a historic building being maintained and repaired. Many contribute their small change towards the cost. Although I’m not sure what I think of the remnants of the Clan system, it’s a bit of an anachronism after all, it’s still clearly important to a lot of people, particularly folk whose ancestors were dispossessed and have gone on to build lives from the scraps of land they were able to cobble together in Australia, Canada and America. And many of them contribute to keep Duart open and in good repair without losing possession of it to some faceless tourist business like Scottish Heritage who would no doubt ramp up the admission prices and impose some multi-media extravaganza to ‘enhance the visitor experience’. The only positive outcome of such a move would be to piss off Adrian Bury of North Yorkshire…and even that’s too high a price to pay.
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